There’s a heat wave, and then there’s 129 degree weather — one is uncomfortable, the other is deadly.
As countries around the world face rising temperatures from climate change, parts of Iran are getting scorched.
On Thursday, the southern Iranian city of Ahvaz hit a staggering 128.7 or 129.2 degrees Fahrenheit, according to two separate meteorological readings, and the “real heat” index reached 142 degrees because of humidity.
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That’s tied with the highest temperature ever recorded in the country.
It was so hot that the weather didn’t fit on the heat index that scientists use to determine how hot it actually feels when factoring in humidity. The index, developed in 1978, has a maximum of 136 degrees.
The one other time Iran reached 129 degrees was in 2016. In 2015, the country reached a real heat feel of 165 degrees because of heavy humidity, which suggests that these sharp spikes in temperature could become the new norm.
Heat waves are more easily attributable to climate change, according to scientists, because there is a clear connection between carbon absorbed in the atmosphere and temperature rises.
Such extreme heat puts the residents of Ahvaz in serious danger for dehydration, heat fatigue, heat cramps, heat stroke, and other illnesses.
For the elderly, these risks are amplified.
Ahvaz is also one of the most polluted cities in the world and the combination of severe air pollution with severe heat increases the health risks for citizens.
Parts of Iran have also struggled with extreme droughts in recent years, which is threatening the country’s water sources and harming agriculture.
Lake Urmia, for instance, once the sixth-largest saline lake in the world, has lost 90% of its water since 1970.
Taken together, Iran is experiencing climate change more intensely than many other countries in the world.
Iran signed the Paris climate agreement and has an action plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the country may have to escalate its approach in the face of extreme weather.
Elsewhere in the world, extreme weather events are triggering decisive action on climate change. Miami in Florida and Guangzhou in China, for instance, are being flooded by rising sea levels and as living conditions become increasingly unbearable, politicians are making tough choices.
The same pattern could take place in Ahvaz. After all, 142 degrees seems pretty unbearable.